Is reflexology purely "hocus pocus" or is there some legitimate evidence that it is not just a wacky foot massage?
Reflexology is an alternative therapy based on the idea that our feet are a map of our bodies. If we apply pressure to the areas on our feet, we can stimulate the corresponding part of the body.
Although I haven't always been an advocate for reflexology, nowadays it is one of my favourite treatments for a reason.
The effect it has on me is astonishing. Combination of human touch, the right amount of pressure on the soles of my feet and a brief retreat into my inner world is just a euphoric experience.
Not to forget that the sleep after reflexology is incredibly restorative, I sleep like a baby. It is evident that it works for me, but I wanted to dig deeper to find out WHY it works.
So, let's dig deeper...
There have been numerous studies over the years. Although, many of them have been small and haven't resulted in any credible data, there was a particular study that caught my eye.
In a Japanese research project from 2008, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to explore what happens in the brain when reflexologists apply pressure on specific reflex points.
They stimulated the eye points of 32 healthy volunteers. What they noticed was, that stimulation of the eye reflex points resulted in activity in the area of the brain, where you would expect to see a reaction when the face is touched.
They also analysed shoulder points. Although they couldn't see as significant activation of the brain as with the eye points, a part of the right postcentral gyrus (which is the main sensory receptive area for the sense of touch) showed increased local activity.
But is it sufficient proof?
I find the results of this study fascinating! By incorporating anecdotal evidence, where there is plenty, with something measurable as with fMRI, it does assure me that it is more than just a foot massage.
Of course, it may be that anecdotal evidence is partly down to the placebo effect, but does it matter as long as it works?
Reflexology has been around for 4000 years, yet scientific research into it is still in the early stages. I am confident that in the years to come we will understand this fantastic treatment much better.